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The Truth About Becoming a Parent

When people have babies they announce it by saying “I’ve never known love until now” or “Now there is a hole filled in my heart that I never knew existed!” Other people then “like” the new baby photos and leave comments about how precious the tiny newborn is and about how “in love” both parents should be. I think that’s part of the reason becoming a parent is so hard… the world expects you to be in love from the first moment. And you know, a lot of new parents probably are. This post isn’t for those parents. It’s for the rest of us…
Becoming a parent is hard. Let me repeat — it’s HARD! For me, it was 42 weeks of pregnancy and 47 hours of labor followed by an emergency c-section HARD. But for other women it is hard in different ways. And when it was over — when little Holland was out and on my chest breastfeeding for the first time — I was exhausted. It’s hard to fall in love when you are exhausted. 
I stayed exhausted for days. My physical recovery involved a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. My milk did not come in for five days because of the c-section. Holland screamed, she refused to be swaddled and she nursed around the clock. I barely slept and when I did, I was usually awoken by lingering c-section pain. Those first days in the hospital are a blur to me. I remember sending Holland away to the nursery on our last night there in tears. She was starving. I had no milk for her. I was crying and was exhausted. I felt like a failure. I begged the nurses to just give her enough formula to make her feel better. Why couldn’t I feed my baby? Why couldn’t I make her sleep? Why did I decide to do this again?

Coming home from the hospital was another ordeal. Suddenly I had a newborn and there weren’t any nurses around to tell me that I was doing an okay job at the whole parenting thing. Everyone kept telling me how wonderful it was to be a parent… how my love for her should rival my love for anything else. But when I looked into her face, I didn’t feel it. I felt tired. I constantly wondered if I was doing enough or whether I was screwing the whole thing up. 
Am I changing her diaper enough? Is she pooping enough? Is she getting enough milk? Maybe I should pump again. Should I make another appointment with the lactation consultant? Are they supposed to cry that much? Why isn’t she sleeping? Dear God… WHY ISN’T SHE SLEEPING?
I vividly recall changing her diaper one night and saying to her as she coo’ed: “You are cute. You are. You know kid,  I really, really hope that I love you someday soon.” I felt like a failure for uttering those words. What kind of new mother doesn’t instantly love her baby? Turns out — there are quite a lot of us. 
Those first few weeks can be brutal. You’re exhausted. You’re sore. You’re emotional. Sometimes, depending on how your birth happened, you are even angry. Have you ever tried falling in love when you are any of those things? 
I fell in love with Adam when it was cold outside. It was winter and I recall first dates that ended with long hugs and kisses bundled up in coats and scarves. We would laugh, talk and share tiny pieces of ourselves with each other. Eventually, I realized that I had shared enough of my soul and knew enough about his to know that I loved him and wanted to be with him forever. 
I fell in love with Holland weeks after her birth when it was cold outside. It was winter and we’d wake up before the sun and I’d nurse her while also nursing a mug of hot tea. We’d watch the morning news and play with brightly colored toys. I’d rock her to sleep as I counted her ten little fingers and ten little toes over and over again. Eventually, I realized that this child… this piece of me… was the greatest gift I had even been given. She was perfect and my love for her was greater than I could ever realize. 
The moral of this rambling story is that it is perfectly okay to not love your baby from the moment you lock eyes. Looking back, I think a part of me always loved Holland, though at the time, that part of me was just too tired, scared, and hormonal to realize it. For weeks, I felt like a failure for not having that instant mother/child relationship I’d seen plastered on Facebook and Instagram. Now, I realize that connection doesn’t happen immediately for everyone and that’s okay. It’s normal. 
Pregnancy is hard. Birth is hard. Parenting is hard. 
But the Truth is that with time… the love comes. And yes… it is great and totally worth the wait.

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  • Reply Jess

    This is heartfelt, and I am glad you wrote it. Usually, I only see one side of the story, and I'm always worried if I won't be as magically great as the people I see.

    January 20, 2016 at 9:03 pm
  • Reply Erin Zauner

    i like this a lot. a lot a lot. i had a great pregnancy and great birth and easy nursing and yet, i was not hit with a bolt of lightning love when i held her. i don't know if it was the constant stream of visitors, or just the unending tiredness. either way, i've come to realize that the love was always there deep down, but it wasn't able to come to the surface until later. which was weird, but also okay, because i barely remember those first two weeks anyway. this is such a great post for the rest of us. thank you!

    January 20, 2016 at 9:12 pm
  • Reply Anonymous

    The honesty in this post in on point. You are so right. It is so hard. It's good to acknowledge that…there's nothing wrong with it.

    January 20, 2016 at 9:14 pm
  • Reply Christy Ashley

    Wow. This is an incredibly honest and beautiful post. Thank you for sharing.

    January 20, 2016 at 9:49 pm
  • Reply Michelle

    Thank you so much for writing this. After 20 hours of labor and a 3:30am birth and losing tons of blood, all I could think was thank God it's finally over. I didn't sleep at all in the hospital because I was in so much pain from the tearing, we had 7 weeks of breastfeeding struggles, and I was in a fog of post partum depression for months. I knew in my head that I loved my daughter, but I didn't feel it for several weeks. Those new-mother-cloud-9 posts always made me feel so guilty. It's so good to know other people had similar experiences.

    January 20, 2016 at 10:29 pm
  • Reply Phoebe

    Thank you for this post! I love how honest this is and appreciate that you shared with us.

    January 20, 2016 at 11:53 pm
  • Reply Sabra Gilbert

    Thank you for sharing!

    January 21, 2016 at 12:15 am
  • Reply Kelley Moyer

    Thank you for writing this. My daughter is almost 4 months old now, and I still feel pangs of guilt thinking about how I didn't immediately fall in love with her either. When the doctor laid her on my chest, it wasn't love at first sight. I was more worried about if her ear was going to fix itself as it came out bent at a 90 degree angle. I also questioned why I ever decided to have a kid when she would scream for 5 hours straight from colic every day for a few weeks. I've not voiced these feelings to anyone because I'm ashamed of them. But now, I love my daughter with everything I have. I don't know if it's because we survived the hard parts and came out on the other side just fine or if it's because she's developing her own little personality, is smiling and laughing, and responds to my voice now. I always knew I loved her; it just took a while to feel it. So thank you for speaking for the rest of us.

    January 21, 2016 at 2:04 am
  • Reply Jackie Jade

    Love this post. We're hoping to start our family soon too and to hear some honest words about how hard it can be is so refreshing. It happens in different ways and at different times for everyone, so I love your honesty.

    January 21, 2016 at 2:05 am
  • Reply Melanie McSwain

    Yep! I cried after I had given birth. And a lot of people say they cry tears of joy because they are holding their baby for the first time. I was crying tears of relief because I didn't have to push anymore and could stop screaming JUST GET IT OUT. Lol.
    I did love my baby right away, but it wasn't that overwhelming feeling of love that I expected. But it grew and grew to become that. NOW months later I cry with joy that I have her.

    January 21, 2016 at 5:49 am
  • Reply Brittany@TheLadyLawyer

    Thank you so much for being so candid! I think a lot of women struggle with not feeling the way they think they should and that can lead to lots of other issues.

    January 21, 2016 at 2:37 pm
  • Reply Fairy Princess Jord

    I'm not a parent so I can't claim to know everything (or anything) but I've always thought my reaction should I have a hold would be the same. I don't know if I would fall in love right away, with any living thing that just isn't my tendency. As a nanny for infants I can vouch that babies are such hard work, and a lot of the time I resented the babies. I resented everything they drained from me even though I was getting paid to watch them, even though I did love them and even though I got to leave at the end of the night. I can't imagine as a parent part of me wouldn't be overwhelmed too. I think it's important to realize (as you do) that love isn't easy and true love doesn't mean immediate love.

    January 21, 2016 at 6:04 pm
  • Reply Amber Thomas

    Girl, this. I know how you struggled in those first days and yet you haven't struggled a lick to put the emotional roller coaster of it all into words and for that, the world is thankful. (count me as a part of it!) Your mama soul is one of my VERY favorites.

    January 21, 2016 at 6:57 pm
  • Reply The Grits Blog

    I love you to pieces Kate but you are wrong here. You DID love Holland you just weren't connected yet – there is a difference between being connected emotionally and deeply versus loving someone. You mention breastfeeding without your milk being in yet – I know how painful that is, only a strong love for a being would invoke you to put yourself through that much pain. That feeling like a failure is LOVE girl >>> you wanting to do SO WELL and SO MUCH for her is a sign of such deep LOVE. I feel like the first few weeks are full of declining hormones and baby blues. I remember crying a lotttttt and being like what the hell did I just do. BUT like you said, one day and you don't even realize it – you connect, deeply connect. The physical pain subsides, you get some rest, and are finally in your right mind >>> all of that makes such a difference. Try not to be so hard on yourself. NO ONE knows what they are doing and if they say they do then RUN.

    January 21, 2016 at 7:28 pm
  • Reply Amanda Moments

    What an amazingly real post, thank you for sharing. I've wondered what my feelings will be like when I get to this point too, and am scared it won't be instant live like you say, is plastered everywhere creating this notion that that's the norm. Kudos for sharing the other side!

    January 22, 2016 at 3:32 pm
  • Reply Lena Stout

    Couldn't have said it better myself. Society has this fairytale image of what motherhood should look like. But, in reality, so it's stinking hard to excel at every single turn. We must learn to accept the roller coaster ride and just "go along for the ride". Enjoy it. Enjoy your naps (when you get them) and never forget, there's no "right way" to raise a child. Lots of love to you guys!!

    January 23, 2016 at 3:57 am
  • Reply Tabitha Lee

    Love the rawness of your honesty. Such a heartfelt post, Kate.

    January 24, 2016 at 6:30 pm
  • Reply Kim Matheson

    All the truth. And no darkness. This post is important. There are too many supposed fairytales in life, plastered all over social media and rambled about over pretty mugs of tea. Sometimes it's legit, most times it isn't. I want honesty. I want discussions like this. Sometimes you don't fall in love in an instant. Sometimes you really do want to just give it all back (because toddlers are insane) and go back to late nights and wine (currently cultivating pre-toddler number two. No wine. Sad days). Most times those are fleeting, you fall in love and you get toddler cuddles and you remember that life is hard, but can be really amazing, too. In short: I love this post, thank you for writing it. 🙂

    January 24, 2016 at 8:23 pm
  • Reply LMW

    I was right there. My love came weeks after birth. I was jealous and hated that I felt like I hated her for a while. Moral, everyone is different and every story is different.

    February 3, 2016 at 3:19 pm
  • Reply Kay R.

    Beautifully written. I missed your blog and while I myself took an extended vacation I missed Holland's birth. I just read all of those posts and wanted to say CONGRATS!! You guys will rock the parenting business. Theres no manual. Do you! 🙂

    February 8, 2016 at 10:58 pm
  • Reply Kay R.

    Beautifully written. I missed your blog and while I myself took an extended vacation I missed Holland's birth. I just read all of those posts and wanted to say CONGRATS!! You guys will rock the parenting business. Theres no manual. Do you! 🙂

    February 8, 2016 at 10:59 pm
  • Reply Kate Brown

    I didn't think I could love another human as much as I love my nephew, so it totally blows my mind that I could love someone even more than him when I eventually have children of my own. Congratulations. 🙂

    February 23, 2016 at 1:31 am
  • Reply Ashley

    I love this post, Kate. I really appreciate the honesty and transparency that you bring. I'm not a mother, so while I can't really understand what that must feel like, I find you incredibly brave for putting this out there. Motherhood terrifies me and I think it's because I feel like I can't hit those impossible standards people portray on social media, blogs, etc. I know it's all just a facade and when I read words like this it assures me that we all have our own journey and THIS is the epitome of motherhood! It's not all baby snuggles and cute tiny clothes, it's just really REALLY freaking hard at times. It's messy and complicated and far from perfect, but totally worth it. Thanks for sharing.

    March 1, 2016 at 2:20 pm
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